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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Palestinians resist Israeli army; EU plans mission

NABLUS, West Bank (REUTERS) — Palestinian leaders called for resistance to an Israeli invasion of the main West Bank cities as a new spasm of Middle East violence prompted a European Union peace mission.

Scores of Israeli tanks and armored vehicles rumbled into Nablus and encircled three adjacent refugee camps Wednesday night, meeting heavy fighting from Palestinian militants.

Palestinian hospital officials said a 53-year-old Palestinian woman was killed in the first bout of fighting in the city’s historic center.

“The Palestinian leadership urges our people to close ranks in a long-term struggle against this occupation and to mobilize all its resources . . . to confront this unjust and criminal war,” the Palestinian Authority said in a statement late Wednesday.

The EU agreed to send a high-level delegation to the region, probably Thursday, as international anger and concern mounted over growing bloodshed in Israel’s six-day-old offensive following a wave of Palestinian suicide attacks.

In protest at the offensive, Egypt decided to cut direct government contacts with Israel but maintain diplomatic ties.

Israel’s main ally, the United States, signaled a policy shift by suggesting it was open to addressing political aspects of a Middle East peace deal before a truce exists on the ground — a move that appeared designed to appeal to the Palestinians.

Israeli forces have kept Palestinian President Yasser Arafat under siege in his ruined headquarters in the city of Ramallah since the offensive began last Friday, and have taken hold of six major Palestinian cities in the West Bank as well as outlying towns and villages.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sent in his forces two days after a suicide bombing in Netanya killed 26 Israelis at the start of the Jewish Passover holiday last week.

“This is now the most dangerous conflict in the world,” British Minister for Europe Peter Hain said at a rare emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

Hain said the ministers would announce a mission to seek a quick end to “this senseless hostility.” They were expected to send EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique to the region on Thursday.

Diplomats said the ministers would demand that Israel allow EU envoys to meet Arafat, although Sharon has said he wants to isolate the Palestinian leader.

Spain said its premier, Jose Maria Aznar, had telephoned Sharon to offer to meet him and Arafat Thursday in Jerusalem.

The Spanish government office said in a statement the Israeli leader had eventually agreed to discuss the possibility of such a visit at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday night.

Israel’s security cabinet was holding a late-night meeting to discuss a response to the rising tensions. It was not clear whether that meeting would discuss Aznar’s proposal.

Fears were also growing that a second front could open at the northern border with Lebanon as Israel faces a more than 18-month-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.

For a second day, Lebanese Hizbollah guerrillas fired missiles at army posts near the border on Wednesday, seriously wounding an Israeli soldier and provoking a response by Israeli artillery and warplanes firing rockets.

In Bethlehem, the first ambulance allowed to collect casualties took the bodies of three civilians and two wounded men from an area near Manger Square to a nearby hospital.

Some 200 Palestinians, many of them armed, remained holed up in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, one of Christianity’s holiest sites, besieged by soldiers outside.

Israeli security sources said negotiations were underway with the gunmen to abandon the church or allow non-combatants out as a priest there appealed for international help to prevent a “massacre” in the town revered as Jesus’s birthplace.

The army said it had strict orders not to shoot at or attack the church.
Elsewhere in the town, Israeli paratroopers moved from street to street, fingers on triggers, peering down alleys. Water gushed from pipes supplying houses, apparently shot up in fighting. Cars crushed by tanks or burned by shelling littered the streets.

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